Why do people go out of their way trying to squash Christmas? Is it a coincidence that the people who want to douse our joy tend to be angry when they do it? What do you suppose is the source of their unhappiness? Could it be our happiness? Here are just some of the things I’ve already heard, in just the first week of December:
- “Decorating a tree is a pagan custom, and even Jeremiah 10 says Christmas trees are evil.”
- “Christ wasn’t born on Dec 25. He wasn’t even born in December! How foolish can you be?”
- “Gifts only take the emphasis off Christ by making people anticipate what they’re getting.”
- “We shouldn’t lie to children about Santa. That sets them up for disappointment.”
If these are your views, you are welcome to them. In my house, there’s a party going on. My heart nearly bursts with joy every year as I prepare my home for the season. It’s a happiness I’m not willing to give up to appease some angry people.
Those verses people cite in Jeremiah to stomp on our tree tradition, in context, describe the futility of chopping down a tree to whittle an idol, such as the golden calf, which is painted gold or silver, nailed in place, and then worshiped. Jeremiah says they are only wood, and cannot speak, move, do good or do harm.
In my home, we have not made our tree an idol. We do not bow at the tree, because it is only a decoration—one of many we use to transform our ordinary rooms into a tangible expression of the joy in our hearts. We also have candles, ribbons, bells, and snowmen. It’s ABSOLUTELY BEAUTIFUL! None of these are the center of our attention. In fact, we don’t bow down to worship the manger scene either, although it has a place of honor in our home throughout the season—and yes, we put the baby in the manger on Day One.
Nobody knows what date Christ was born. Sure, it was likely late fall, or maybe even earlier. We don’t care about that. I have a friend who was adopted from another country and doesn’t really know his birth date for certain, because clear records were not kept. Guess what? He celebrates anyway. December 25th was chosen (and I don’t care what pagan influence went into the decision, I really don’t) to celebrate the birth of Christ, and so I celebrate.And gifts? They’ve never been the reason for our season, but we all love to give them. If you ask my boys what they want for Christmas, they will shrug and give some vague answer, because they honestly haven’t given it much thought. They were raised not to expect or ask for gifts. Instead, we make a big deal of giving—providing for those in need by participating in community outreach efforts, presenting small gifts to our friends and neighbors to say we appreciate them, and keeping secrets from one another in anticipation of the smiles we will see on Christmas morning. There’s no rummaging through each other’s closets—that would crush someone’s joy. We give because Jesus gave, although our gifts pale in comparison to everlasting life.
As for Santa, I think my oldest explained it best when he sat me down (I think he was about 9 or so) to tell me he’d figured it out. “Santa is all of us,” he said. “It’s us being good to each other.”
What joy I felt when he said that. It stays with me today, nearly 20 years later. My youngest, who is 14 now, is excited about giving, and has already sent me a link for “the perfect gift for Dad,” for which he will willingly sacrifice a few weeks of allowance. Santa is not a lie; he’s an ideal. He may have been created through myths; he may have been the Dutch Bishop Sinterclaas, known in the United States as Saint Nicholas; or he may have been a wild maniac pulled from the closet of some paranoid pagan dwarf. All that matters is that, in my family, today, he represents love. I AM Santa, and so are you.
I close this writing with perhaps the saddest Christmas misconception I know of, most often expressed by the phrase, “Peace on Earth! What a load of garbage. There is no peace here.”
To that I must say, oh, yes there is. When Luke wrote of the angels visiting the shepherds in the fields on the night Christ was born, he did not record them saying the entire world will be at peace; instead they said, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.” This means, now that Christ has come to us as one who glorifies God, we never need to worry about what’s happening on earth because we’re here temporarily and there’s a lot more to come when we move on. If you love the Lord, and welcome him into your life, you can find peace—even in the darkest times. And nobody can squash that.
So tell your nay-sayers to take a hike, but pray joy will open their hearts. Perhaps one day they’ll get it: If God knows our hearts, He can see our joy. We needn’t be hesitant to anticipate, decorate, or celebrate as we rejoice and praise God for sending His son to us.
Have a Merry, Merry Christmas.